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Kurdish Nationalism in Mam u Zin of Ahmad-î Khânî -- Part I

By Farhad Shakely, The Kurdish Globe, Saturday, 22 August 2009

The history of the Kurdish people is full of examples of both oppression and resistance.

I: All those who study and deal with the history, literature and ethnography of the Kurdish people, find out, at an early stage of their work, that their tasks are hard and they have to be equipped with extra capability and patience. 

The difficult political circumstances prevailing in Kurdistan, have affected, negatively, culture and literature of the Kurds as badly as the other aspects of their life. The division of Kurdistan among several different countries, divided, simultaneously, Kurdish culture. Frontiers were drawn also through the language, culture and literature of the Kurds in those parts. The occupying powers have always been hostile to the Kurdish people. They have done their best to subjugate them, suppress their insurrections and eliminate all the appearances of their national character: in short to assimilate the Kurdish people. 

The Kurds, on the other hand, have always resisted occupation and oppression and striven for the sake of freedom and independence. The history of the Kurdish people is full of examples of both oppression and resistance. Insurrections and revolts had previously happened in Kurdistan due to several religious, tribal and ethnic reasons, or as spontaneous acts of reaction to foreign invasion (Xenophon, Islam, Tamerlane, etc). In the modern times, particularly from the middle of the nineteenth century, the Kurdish national-liberation movement took on new aspects. Since then there have been political goals for the Kurdish insurrections. They became parts of the Kurdish national-liberation movement that struggled, and still does, to liberate Kurdistan and establish a political framework: a national-state for the Kurds. 

Kurdish nationalism "Kurdâyatî" has been a motive and a stimulating force in the continuation and development of the Kurdish national-liberation movement. For the firs time, the poet and thinker Ahmad-î Khânî (1651-1707) formed and laid the foundations of Kurdish nationalism. In his epic Mam u Zîn (henceforth M&Z) Khânî analysed, politically, the situation in Kurdistan and called to struggle to liberate Kurdistan and establish a Kurdish national-state. This paper is an attempt to survey the political view-points that Khânî recorded in the epic of M&Z, regarding Kurdish nationalism. 

Several writers and researchers have written about Khânî and his works. Even two dissertations have been written about him. But Khânî's thoughts concerning Kurdish nationalism, to which I devoted this paper, have never been treated sufficiently. This was not because of the inability of those who wrote about him, but because they lived and wrote in countries that regarded Kurdistan an inseparable part of themselves or denied the existence of the Kurds completely. Khânî's thoughts still arouse uneasiness and fear in the powers that occupy Kurdistan. This is a clear sign of the importance and effectiveness of Khâsnî's thoughts, even three centuries after that they were written down. 

II: The primary sources to understand and study Khânî's thoughts are his own writings, especially M&Z. Khânî's writings have been published several times. In this study I depended, mainly, on the editions and translations of M&Z, which I will survey in the following. The manuscripts of his writings were not at my disposition: 

1. M&Z was published for the first time in 1337 A. H. (1334/1335 the Rumi calendar, 1918/1919 A. D.) in Istanbul, with an introduction by Hamza. It is said that the copies of this edition were burnt, but I personally have seen more than one copy of it. There is a copy in the library of The School of Oriental and African Studies in London, that Mr. C. J. Edmonds had brought from Iraqi Kurdistan. There is also a copy in the private library of Professor Marouf Khaznadar, in Hawlêr (Arbil), Iraqi Kurdistan. Moreover, Mr. Tawfiq wahby told me, in July 1982, that he himself did have a copy that he presented, in 1942, to the late Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani. 

In this edition the old Kurdish orthography, that employed Arabic script, has been used. Short vowels and the possessive article for masculine (ê) are, therefore, not distinguishable, and the character (G) is lacking. For both sounds (G) and (K) only the character (K) has been used. 

2. The second edition of M&Z was published in 1947 A. D. in Aleppo, Syria. This is only an offset reprinting of the first edition.

3. The same first edition was published twice more in 1954 and 1968, in Hawlêr, Iraqi Kurdistan, by Gîw-î Mukryanî, with his introduction. These two editions are not very reliable, because the editor changed several words in he text. 

4. In 1962 A. D. a new edition of M&Z was published in Moscow by the late Soviet Kurdologist M. B. Rudenko. This edition consists of the Kurdish text with a Russian translation by Rudenko and introductions by Rudenko herself and Professor Qanatê Kurdo (Kurdoev). It is considered to be the best and the most reliable edition of M&Z, for in addition to the former editions, Rudenko used even the manuscripts of M&Z hat are kept in the library of the Institute of Oriental Studies in Leningrad (today called Petersburg). 

Rudenko too, used Arabic script for writing the Kurdish text of her edition. Short vowels and the possessive article (ê) are, sometimes, lacking. When, in 1962, Rudenko published the book, the new Kurdish orthography based on Arabic-Persian alphabet was in use in Iraqi Kurdistan, but it seems that she was not aware of the development. 

I depended, mainly, on this edition and quoted the examples of Khânî's baits from it. In a few occasions, when I was in doubt of her choice of the right word, I took the other editions into consideration. 

5. Another edition was the one published in 1968 in Istanbul in Turkey by the Kurdish writer Mehmed Emin Bozarslan. This edition consists of the Kurdish text of M&Z with its translation into the Turkish. The Kurdish text is printed in Latin (Turkish) characters. The system used in the writing is the one that was founded by Prince Jaladat Badirkhan and also is known as the Hawar alphabet. 

Bozarslan based his edition, as he told me, on the editions of Istanbul and Aleppo and a manuscript written by his own father, who also, for his part, based it on the Istanbul edition. What attracts one's attention is that in his introduction to this edition, Bozarslan did not mention the Aleppo edition of 1947. He mentioned, instead, a Sham (Damascus) edition of 1958. As far as I know there is not such an edition at all. 

In transcribing the text into Latin characters, many mistakes have occurred. Moreover many sounds that exist in the original text are not represented in the transcribed text, since these phonemes are not represented by own signs in the Latin (Turkish) alphabet. This edition was reprinted in 1975, in Istanbul.

Source: The Kurdish Globe, Saturday, 22 August 2009

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